Why One Skilled Nursing Operator is Paying for CNA Training

It’s an industry-wide notion that good workers — not to mention certified nursing assistants (CNAs) — can be hard to come by.

That’s why a United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC) location in Chelsea, Mich., is taking extra steps to snag a few good CNAs by paying for their training.

Chelsea Retirement Community is now taking applications for a new pilot program dubbed CNA Career Pathway. The program is aimed at recruiting people who are interested in becoming CNAs during a time when CNAs are hard to keep in skilled nursing, Michelle Baldwin Henderson, vice president of human relations at UMRC, tells Skilled Nursing News.

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“Most of the CNAs that come to work with us are using [the job] as a stepping stone,” Henderson says. “They like that experience, but they’re not planning to stay.”

Across the industry, SNFs have gotten a reputation for being a kind of “farm system” where nurses go to get valuable experience and then move on to hospitals or a private practice after a year or two. In a recent LeadingAge study, 62.6% of surveyed long-term care providers said staff turnover was among the top workforce challenges.

Under the new program, five lucky candidates who pass a round of interviews and a background check will be able to enroll in a three-week CNA training program at a local community college or career center. During that time, UMRC would pay their classroom fees upfront in addition to a full-time salary of $10 an hour, Henderson says.

Then, provided they are able to pass the test required to get certification, they’d be hired on to work a part- or full-time shift at the Kresge Skilled Nursing Care Center, which is on the Chelsea Retirement Community campus. Additionally, they’d get a pay raise to the current union rate of $13.85 per hour.

There’s just one condition: Participants would have to sign an agreement to work for UMRC for a year.

“We need CNAs… who are really dedicated to staying and helping build the culture of caring for our residents,” Henderson says.

If the program is successful, it could be repeated or expanded to other UMRC communities.

“We want to follow their path and see how successful they’ve been, for both their own career goals and for the goal of staffing Kresge,” Henderson says. “Then, we’ll reassess it in the first six months to a year.”

Written by Tim Regan

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